Category Archives: Special Days

books selected for special occasions

Day 172 – Can’t You Sleep Little Bear?

We may be past Fathers’ Day now (where is the time going?), but we had one more particularly charming book with a Fathers’ Day theme left in the queue, and we read it today. “Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear” by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Barbara Firth is a delightful and touching story about a restless little bear and his papa’s efforts to comfort him so that he is ready to fall asleep. It is beautifully illustrated, and the story had elements that really resonated with us, making this one of our favorite (if not THE favorite) Fathers’ Day book we read this past week.Sleep

The story unfolds with Big Bear tucking Little Bear into bed and settling down to read his Big Bear book. But Little Bear can’t sleep: he is scared of the dark at the back of their cave. Big Bear brings Little Bear three lanterns in succession, a tiny one, a medium one, and a big one. After each lantern is hung, Big Bear settles back in to read only to be interrupted again by little bear. Even after the final, largest lantern is hung, little bear is still scared – of the darkness outside the cave! Big Bear is at a loss – “all the lamps in the world (can’t) light up the dark outside”. But then Big Bear has a thought, he takes Little Bear outside to see that the darkness is not complete. He shows Little Bear the moon and the stars, and there under the peaceful moonlit sky, Little Bear finally falls fast asleep in Big Bear’s arms. Big Bear heads back inside to finish his book, and falls asleep in his chair with his book in one hand and Little Bear on his arm.

We thought this book was adorable. We loved the soft but expressive watercolor illustrations that gave the tale a feeling of real storybook magic – especially in the picture of Big Bear and Little Bear looking at the moon. I appreciated the way in which Big Bear reacts to Little Bear’s fear of the dark – initially seeming frustrated, he remains compassionate, and each time he rises he realizes that Little Bear has a point. I think that this may also be a good book for little ones who are scared of the dark – it always seemed like stepping outside to look at the moon helped to relax our girls when they were younger and having trouble settling down to go to sleep. “Little Bear” really is a sweet story, and a wonderful choice for Fathers’ Day (even if it was a day late!).

Bonus observation: look closely at Big Bear’s book when he sets it down – he’s reading the same book you are!
P.S. this review (and the image above) are from the October 2002 Special Anniversary Edition

Day 171 – My Dad Thinks He’s Funny

For every kid who has ever rolled their eyes and said “my dad thinks he’s soooooo funny,” have we ever found the book for you! “My Dad Thinks He’s Funny” by Katrina Germein and illustrated by Tom Jellett is a delightful book that really resonated with our oldest and made us all laugh out loud.

dad thinksThe book is narrated by a little boy who is (ostensibly) SO OVER his dad’s corny sense of humor. His dad never seems to be serious, answering seemingly every question or statement with a silly quip. Say “I’m hungry” and dad says, “Hello, hungry. Nice to meet you.” Tell dad you think you have something in your eye, and dad says, “Yeah – an eyeball.” Heading out to go swimming? Dad cautions, “Try not to get wet.” At this point, I expect many children listening to the book will be rolling their eyes and empathizing with the narrator: “My dad thinks he’s funny, too.” Or maybe that’s just what happened around our house. Of course, at the same time that little ones are rolling their eyes, I expect there are an equal and opposite number of dads nodding their heads approvingly: “That’s a good one!” Hmmm. Maybe that was just our house, too. Personally, I don’t think the jokes in this book ever get old, but by far the best one – and the one that made us laugh out loud – was when the narrator cautioned “and when dad says, ‘Time for a special announcement’, we leave the room fast, before it really starts to smell!” Dads do think they are funny.

No matter how jaded the narrator seems, however, the illustration on the last page gives him away – as we see him giving dad a big hug! I thought this book was not only funny, but cute – and so very true to life. The illustrations are playful and expressive and add to the fun – especially the page that demonstrates the “eye-roll”. We give this very amusing book a cumulative family thumbs-up! I recommend checking this book out from the library and reading for Father’s Day, dad’s birthday, belly laugh day, or any day. Now, if you can hang on for a second, I have a special announcement to make…


Day 170 – My Dad

Tired of dad books yet? I hope not, cuz we found another fun one today: “My Dad” by Anthony Browne – an endearing tribute to the way in which a child’s love for his father can cause him to exaggerate daddy’s best traits…just a tad.my dad

The little boy in Mr. Browne’s book has a dad that isn’t afraid of anything – even the Big Bad Wolf. This little boy’s dad can leap over the moon, walk on tightropes, wrestle giants, and easily beat all the other fathers in a footrace. He’s as strong as a gorilla, wise as an owl (with an important caveat), and happy as a hippopotamus. He can eat like a horse, and swim like a fish – and even though he’s big as a house, he’s also soft as a teddy bear. He has several other impressive traits, but the best of all: he loves his son, and he always will.

I thought this book was charming. The illustrations are entertaining and off-beat; I particularly enjoyed how the little boy imagines his father displaying all these remarkable characteristics and accomplishing astounding feats while dressed in his pajamas and his plaid robe. Mr. Browne’s narrator looks at his dad the way that I think many dad’s like to believe their children see them. In many cases, I believe that is how children view their fathers. It’s a lovely thought – for me at least – and a great book for the week of Fathers’ Day in particular.


Day 169 – Oh Daddy!

After finding some over-the-top humor in daddy’s deafening snores yesterday, today we opted for something a little more whimsical and sweet. “Oh, Daddy” by Bob Shea is an amusing tale told from the point of view of a little boy whose daddy is just too silly to make it through life without a little help. The simple illustrations are charming and expressive – adding humor and heart to a storyline that should be familiar to many dads, and certainly resonated with me.oh daddy

Mr. Shea’s narrator may be little, but he is “as smart as two eight-year-olds!” In fact, the narrator informs us that he is so smart, he has to show his dad how to do things, and his dad is a grown up! Meanwhile, daddy is asleep on the couch and snoring away with abandon. When it’s time to get dressed in the morning, daddy puts underpants on his head and asks, “Is this how you get dressed?” When it’s time to drive to grandma’s, daddy tries climbing through the passenger-side window, asking, “Is this how you get in the car?” When it’s time to eat, Daddy spills his carrots everywhere: “Is this how you eat carrots?” Daddy is even confused about how to do big hugs, lumbering around the house and rolling on the floor while trying to wrap his arms around himself. “Is this how you give big hugs?” Oh, daddy! Fortunately, every time daddy gets confused, our narrator is there to show him how things are supposed to be done – including giving big hugs. Clever daddy.

This book gave me a big smile. With an economy of words, Mr. Shea does an excellent job of capturing how I imagine many young children think about their silly fathers. I believe our oldest has long been confused about some of the very simple things in life that her father doesn’t seem to understand, and I could easily see her identifying with Mr. Shea’s narrator. I also enjoyed the subtle humor in the expressions on the faces of the parents and the little boy. This is a really cute book.

Now, I need to print out this review and book myself a helicopter ride so that I can put this review into the “cloud”. This whole interweb thing is so confusing.

Oh, daddy!


Day 167 – I Love My Daddy

Are you ready for a flurry of daddy-themed books? June may be our ocean and beach month, but it is also the month for Fathers’ Day! Yesterday we read “Knuffle Bunny”, a humorous tale about how even the most well intentioned daddies can sometimes be so oblivious. Today, we had a little change of pace: a simple, sweet story about the softer side of fatherhood and the connection between father and child. i love my dad

“I Love My Daddy” by Sebastien Braun chronicles a day in the life of a papa bear and his little cub. With charming soft-focus paintings filling every page, Mr. Braun shows papa and cub enjoying playful and quiet moments together – eating honey, playing hide-and-seek, splashing in the river, or just sitting on top of the hill in quiet contemplation. It’s a lovely book – endearing without being sappy – and an especially good bedtime story…and now that I have read over it again, I must go find my children and give them big hugs.

Bye for now.


Day 151 – The Wall

In honor of Memorial Day, we read a poignant story told from the point of view of a little boy visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC with his father. “The Wall” by Eve Bunting is touching and thought-provoking, covering a complex subject without being maudlin or judgmental, and the straightforward prose is nicely accessible to younger listeners.The Wall

The somber water-color illustrations show the pair walking in their winter coats, looking for the name of the little boy’s grandfather along a wall that stretches out far into the distance. Along the way, they encounter a man with no legs sitting in a wheelchair dressed in camouflage and pass by an older couple holding each other and crying. Eventually they find grandpa’s name – George Munoz – and the little boy’s father holds a piece of paper over the name and rubs it with a pencil so that the letter show up white. As his father bows his head quietly, the little boy sees an old man pass by holding his grandson’s hand. “Can we go to the river now?” asks the passing boy. “Yes,” says his grandfather, “but button your jacket. It’s cold.”

As narrator and his father prepare to leave, his father says to him “…(this) is a place of honor. I’m proud that your grandfather’s name is on this wall”. “I am, too” says the narrator, but he thinks to himself “…I’d rather have my grandpa here, taking me to the river, telling me to button my jacket because it’s cold. I’d rather have him here.” It still chokes me up to read that line over again.

There are plenty of opportunities here for discussion – if you are so inclined (how did that man lose his legs? why is the older couple crying? why does that wall seem so long?). But even if you aren’t, “The Wall” is still a quietly powerful book and a great choice for Memorial Day – or any day.

Day 129 – You Made Me a Mother

For Mothers’ Day, we read an adorable new book called “You Made Me a Mother”, by Laurenne Sala and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. First published in March of this year, “You Made Me a Mother” is short on text but long on moving imagery. In this sweet picture book, Ms. Sala provides a tear-jerking tribute to the magic that is motherhood, making it a perfect fit for our Mothers’ Day read aloud.

made a mother“You Made Me a Mother” is written in the first person, with a mommy talking to her little one about how much having a child has changed her life for the better. The narrative takes the reader from the excitement and apprehension of pregnancy, to the “big fat love” of a mommy holding her baby for the first time, to a day somewhere in the future when that same little baby will finally be ready to “let go” of her mommy’s hand. Along the way, Ms. Glasser – whose style you may recognize from her work on the Fancy Nancy books – creates wonderfully expressive scenes that fit the text perfectly.

Ms. Sala succeeds in capturing the feelings I feel are most special about motherhood. I loved the mother’s realization that she would spend her life doing things to make her little one happy, and the feeling of magic she experiences when she hears her little on say her name and take her hand. I know both feelings quite intimately – as well as this one: “If I could, I would open my heart, and love would rain down all over you. And you would giggle. And I’d do it all over again. And we would walk hand in hand. Until you let go.”

Even though it has been over 12 years since I first became a mother, every time I look at this book I am lump-in-my-throat reminded of just how overwhelmingly magical becoming a mother truly was/is. Thank you Ms. Sala and Ms. Glasser for expressing my feelings so beautifully and in a way that allows me to easily share them with my children on Mothers’ Day and everyday.


Day 128 – I Like to Be Little

Once there was a little girl. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” her mother asked. “I just want to stay little right now,” she said. “Why?” said her mother. “It’s nice to be grown up. Why do you want to be little?” “Because I am,” said the little girl, “and because when you are little you can do things you can’t when you grow up.”

So begins “I Like to be Little” by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Erik Blegvad. It’s an endearing little book that does a wonderful job of reflecting how I think a child might choose to look at the world. In the process, it reminded us of some of the very best things about being small…while not forgetting to mention what I think is one of the very best things about growing up.little

What are some of the things you get to do when you are little? Skip when you are glad, play under the dining room table, go barefoot in the summertime, draw with crayons, have birthday parties with cake and ice cream, jump in piles of leaves, eat snow as it falls from the sky, or sit and do nothing all day. Her mother asks questions to understand, and occasionally inserts observations, but mostly she listens patiently. Eventually, the mother informs her daughter that she knows something about being grown up that makes all those things happen again…you get to be the mother of a little girl of your own! “I know something as good as that,” the little girl says too her incredulous mother, “at night, after you kiss me and tuck me in, I can lie in bed and think of growing up to be like you…I like to know I’ll grow up some day. But right now, I like to be little.”

This is a really sweet and thoroughly delightful book. The way in which Ms. Zolotow’s little girl describes all the things which she likes about being little is charming, and reading it put a big smile on my face…that smile has appeared again as I think about it. It’s a great reminder to find the joy in little everyday events, and of the value of unstructured play. We also thought it was a particularly good selection for the Saturday before Mothers’ Day.


Day 127 – Mommy Pick Me Up

For our next Mother’s Day themed book, we had a little change of pace. Last night was a beautiful and moving tribute to family. Tonight was a plain old-fashioned laugh-out-loud good time. “Mommy, Pick Me Up” by Soledad Bravi is short on words and is illustrated with simple and colorful drawings, but it is full of humor – perhaps best falling under the category of “It’s Funny Because It’s True.”

mommyEvery page of this book rang true for us…and every one made me laugh. If you would like to know how mommy’s day was in our house…any day…we could probably just hand you this book and you’d be up to speed. Two of my favorite pages (splitting hairs here, because they were all pretty good) were the little boy sitting on the floor surrounded by blocks saying “Mommy? Can you help me build a tower?”, and the tried-and-true “Mommy snuggle” with a little boy resting his head on mommy’s shoulder; there’s not much better in the world than the shoulder snuggle. However, my very favorite spread…and I’m guessing I’m not alone…was the little boy calling out:

“Daddy? DADDY?”…

“YES!” says Daddy…

“Where’s mommy?”

Yes – that about sums it up. I think I am finished here.


Day 126 – The Best Gifts

For the week leading up to Mother’s Day, we selected several books that have to do with motherhood and childhood. Our first such selection, “The Best Gifts” by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch and illustrated by Elly MacKay, is a particularly moving tribute to motherhood and to family. With Ms. Skrypuch’s warm and comforting words, and Ms. MacKay’s dreamy dioramas decorating every page, the book reminds us of the importance of special moments and the power of well loved family mementos to bring memories of those moments back, and that “the best gifts cans never be bought.”gifts

The narrative of “The Best Gifts” traces a circle, following Sara and the key moments in her life – from breastfeeding with her mother as a baby to breastfeeding her own child. The book pauses for one of Sara’s birthdays, for college graduation, for Sara’s wedding, and finally for the birth of Sara’s own child. All along the way, there are celebrations and thoughtful gifts, but the very best gifts always come later…when Sara is “wrapped in love” at her mother’s breast, when she falls asleep to her father reading her a bed time story, or when she receives the wedding gift of an old photo album covered with fabric from her baby blanket.

There is some truly beautiful imagery at work in this book (e.g., mother’s milk swirling in Sara’s mouth, father’s words swirling in Sara’s head, a child feeling wrapped in love, and a light scent of sandalwood that later would bring back so many fond memories). Ms. MacKay’s unique style of illustration fits perfectly with the text. We all loved reading this book – all the more so because we are parents of two little girls. I can’t recommend this book enough; it is now a permanent part of our collection.

Side note: the edition we read was an updated version of the 1998 original – with new illustrations and some information on breastfeeding resources at the end.